(photo credit: Avishai Klein)
The first thing Raanana Mayor Nahum Hofree did upon speaking to The Jerusalem Post this week ahead of Earth Day on Thursday was to correct the first words out of this reporter’s mouth. “Raanana, a green city,” this reporter started to say. Hofree interrupted immediately to say, “Raanana, a sustainable city.”
The distinction might not be obvious, but it speaks volumes about Raanana’s environmental efforts. Arguably a green city is a superficial title one could garner through a series of minimal actions. A sustainable city is a much more thorough, ongoing project.
Hofree explained where the impetus came to embark on a process few cities in Israel have tackled to the extent Raanana has.
“There were a few different impetuses. First of all, it is on the global agenda. Second, the residents wanted it. And there was a personal drive to preserve the planet,” he told the Post
. Hofree himself drives a hybrid.
Raanana is one of four cities in Israel to have joined the international organization ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability. The other three are Jerusalem, Kfar Saba and Shoham.
Hofree’s efforts have been recognized on the national level as well – he was the only mayor invited to accompany Union of Local Authorities in Israel head Shlomo Buhbut to the Copenhagen climate summit in December.
“I tried to give the public there a taste of the slogan ‘Think Global. Act Local’ in action. They were very receptive,” Hofree said.
As Hofree puts it, “Becoming a sustainable city is not a project, it’s a long-distance race,” and as such has had its ups and downs.
On a physical level, Raanana residents enjoy 18 square meters per person of parks and green spaces. The national average is eight square meters. Forty-eight percent of the city is parks and Hofree plans to plant thousands more trees.
Those parks are watered by an advanced wireless tracking system, which optizes water use.
The city has also mapped its emissions to see how it can reduce them and is in the process of drawing up a sustainability master plan for the city, according to the mayor. Hofree is also in talks with the Environmental Protection Ministry to become one of the first cities to divide its garbage at the source into “wet” (organic) and “dry.”
The municipality has reduced its resource use and the city will switch over to LED energy-saving lightbulbs in all streetlights and traffic lights by the end of the year.
But Hofree knows that becoming truly sustainable is about involving the public – “only 6 percent of emissions come from the municipality.” There, Hofree has had mixed success.
“The residents are definitely in favor. They’re ready for these kinds of changes. But the businesses need some convincing,” he acknowledged.
He also mentioned a shuttle that the municipality had set up to take people to work in Herzliya, but the workers didn’t use it.
Hofree also mentioned, without directly criticizing, that he could use some government help to effect positive change.
“For instance, there’s a limit to what I can do regarding public transportation when there’s no train that comes to the city.
“Or take waste disposal. We are very good at recycling with the means that we have. We recycle 40% of waste, which is among the best [rates] in the country, but it’s still just 40%. We could use a processing station nearby,” he said.
Sustainable initiatives require a great deal of planning and so are not as easy to implement as some other things, the mayor pointed out, but he does not plan to let that stop him.
Having worked his way up through the Raanana education system, first as
a principal and later as head of the education system, Hofree has not
neglected to include environmental values in the curriculum. He also
arranged to give all first graders a lunch box on the first day of
school to cut down on the number of non-biodegradable plastic bags used.
For Earth Day, the city held a series of educational events for
children and adults. The city was also one of 14 that turned off its
lights for an hour on Thursday night to mark Earth Hour to raise
awareness on global warming.
Hofree paid special tribute to his city’s considerable Anglo population.
“They are very ready and willing to take more and more environmental
steps. In fact, they often project a sense that there is not enough
recycling going on or what have you. I want to take this opportunity to
say to them, ‘Keep pushing, we [at the municipality] welcome it and we
will continue to provide you with the tools to improve.’”